Thursday, June 30, 2011

Got Class? Thanks, Charles

"Shut the fuck up!" I shouted into their soft, pasty-white teenage/twenty-something faces.

The whole theatre turned to look at the commotion.  There I stood in the middle of about a hundred and fifty people, face red with rage, yelling at these two pricks.  I gave them my best approximation of The Look that was supposed to show that I meant business.  That I was ready -and more importantly, willing- to start some shit.  I thought that through sheer will alone I could overpower this pair of idiots.

I was wrong.

They laughed.  Told me to shut the fuck up and sit back down.  Gave me the finger.  Threw their popcorn in my face.  Before those golden clusters had time to bounce off my face and reach the ground I had already hopped over my the back of my theatre seat and right on top of these assholes.  Tactically I may have had the upper ground, though I wasn't sure if Ryebone and my brother-in-law had followed me into the fray or not.  It was too late now anyway.

It was satisfying the see the smug little smiles wiped from their soft, pink faces replaced by terror.  One of them tried to escape, but I grabbed him by his shirt collar and reeled him back in.  Fight or flight.  Flight had failed, so he took a big, clumsy swing at me.  Who the fuck do you think you are?  Wolverine?  I easily brushed aside his pathetic attack and responded in kind.  Jab.  Liver.  Cross.  Right over the edge and into the next row of seats.  Patrons scattering like ants.

The other geek -seeing his friend in serious trouble- grabs me around the neck in some kind of vain attempt to put me into a choke hold like the kind he'd undoubtedly seen on TV.  Pathetic.  As I turn around I bring my elbow up, striking him in the face.  Hard.  He reels backwards, and I notice how his glasses somehow stay on.  He lands hard half on the seats, half on the floor and immediately I'm on top of him with my hands around his throat.  And it feels so fucking good when I squeeze.  The fall took the wind out of him and I think his shoulder is out of joint so he doesn't put up much of a fight.  He flops around like dying fish trying to get back to water.  His eyes are bloodshot now and seem to be popping out of his head.  He stares up at me with some vain hope in his eyes, like if he concentrates really hard he can shoot a blast of optic energy at me like Cyclops.  No such luck, hombre.

I squeeze even harder and I can feel my thumbs digging deeper into his trachea and his lips are a strange shade of blue now and all I can think is His fucking glasses are still on? How is that possible?  His eyes are rolling back in his head  and I hear myself saying something like:

"Maybe next time you won't talk through the whole movie, you fucking douche bag!"

And it feels so satisfying.

Unfortunately (for me) it didn't go down like that at all.  Instead I sat through X-MEN: FIRST CLASS seething, choking back my rage while the two morons behind us delivered their running commentary through the whole fucking movie.  And not even whispering either.  It was regular conversation volume.

What a piss-off.

Then there was the group of kids sitting at five o'clock about halfway back in the theatre with their own special kind of annoyance.  Overall it was one of the worst movie-going experiences I've ever had despite the latest X-MEN flick being a decent movie.  After reading the beginning of this article you might be asking yourself several things:

1) Why do I seem like such and angry, violent person?
2) Why didn't I turn around an say something to these assholes who talked through an entire movie?
3) Am I some kind of pussy? (a corollary to 2)
4) Would anybody else in the theatre have actually testified against me had I followed through with my violent fantasy?

Well first off, no I'm not really that angry of a person.  But sometimes The Rage builds up inside me and one way of dealing with my rage is through violent fantasies usually involving my perceived wrongdoer.  I assume this a natural way of dealing with my anger without actually walking around punching people in the face which would be counterproductive and also really hard on my knuckles.

Secondly I didn't turn around to confront these knob gobblers for two (what I assume are) very good reasons.  Or at least valid reasons.  The first reason is because no matter how the scenario played out in my head, no matter what I would have said or done to the commentators, I could only foresee the situation escalating to a point I wasn't willing to go to.  And the second reason was because if I had turned around my Rage was at the point where I almost certainly would have precipitated an escalation (see: the first line of this article).  And anyway we're socially programmed to avoid confrontation, which was probably a good instinct in this case.  I've never actually witnessed a movie theatre "incident" so I have no idea if it is ever possible to diffuse a situation with assholes of this calibre.  If you have then kudos to you and I'd like to hear your insight on the situation.

Thirdly, I might be some kind of pussy.  I don't know.  (If you lick me, do I taste like fish?  (I've never actually thought pussy tasted like fish, but that's the cultural reference people tend to understand.))  Sometimes I get this clear vision of what needs to be done and the corresponding burst of will to do it, and sometimes I feel constrained by the power of my social programming to just shut the fuck up and ignore shit.  Just blend in.  Another space monkey.  It tends to be easier not to enter into a confrontation, because if you do you might have to follow through.  Honestly, I didn't think asking a couple of guys to shut the fuck up while I watched the movie was worth A) Potentially having the tables turned on me and getting caught up in their shit and maybe getting kicked out of the theatre along with them or B) Potentially entering an escalating conflict which culminated with me having to lay the beatdown on a couple of ubernerds.

Fourthly I can only speak to my own personal feelings about the matter, but if a couple of assholes who were making my night shittier by the minute were subsequently confronted and beaten to bloody pulps, not only would I not testify in a court of law against said Hero, but I would also build a shrine to him and pray to it semi-annually from now until the time I forgot.  I can't think of anyone who would side with the douche bags except other douche bags who, sadly, have multiplied like rats over the past couple of years and have now become one of North America's leading house pests.

It was unfortunate that my viewing of X-MEN: FIRST CLASS was sullied by such douche baggery as Matthew Vaughn did a really good job with this film.  I'm torn about Vaughn because the same guy who gave us the underrated (?) yet totally awesome LAYER CAKE also delivered the stinking heap that was KICK-ASS (and before I get any responses outlining all the reasons KICK-ASS did indeed kick ass, let me break it to you: the movie sucked).  Plus with poor showings like the even stinkier and best-forgotten heap of shit X3 and the only slightly better X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE I did not have high hopes despite Ryebone's willingness to bet his collection of celebrity urine that I would indeed "love the bitch."

In my mind Vaughn has more than made up for KICK-ASS.  FIRST CLASS is an excellent addition to the X-Men movie mythology (a point of order for hardcore comic book geeks) and a solid stand alone movie in and of itself.  Now for me this movie wasn't quite as good as Bryan Singer's first two X-Films, but still a movie I would actually consider purchasing.

I won't bore you with the plot, but if you've seen the trailers and/or been on the Internet in the past year you'll pretty much know the basic plot.  The focus is on Charles Xavier (AKA Professor X) and Eric Lehnsherr (AKA Magneto) and how they became frenemies, and how the original X-Men came to be formed and then mixed up in some key events in the Cold War way back in 1960-something.  All that's not really important, because you can go and watch the fucking thing yourself so you don't need me to regurgitate the thing for you.  Needless to say the plot is smart and cohesive and "makes sense" in the colloquial sense.

One of the main threads that ran through the movie that I thought was interesting was Eric Lehnsherr's back story which picks up with the first scene of 2000's X-MEN in which he's a young man in a Nazi concentration camp separated from his parents and doing funky shit with metal.  Almost immediately after this he meets none other than... Kevin Bacon, who for some reason still feels weird to see in a movie like this.  Don't get me wrong, he did a great job, it just doesn't seem like his kind of vibe.  Of course this played right into Ryebone's (sometimes frightening) obsession with that game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon which was popular back when I was still in high school and which to this day Ryebone takes so seriously he still refers to it as a "contact sport."  After the movie was over he looked at me and in all seriousness told me that a blockbuster movie like this with so many new connections to Kevin Bacon would change the game forever, and to make it more challenging might have to be changed to Four Degrees of Kevin Bacon, and I could tell by the fervour in his eyes that he would brook no dissent on the matter.  His intensity kind of scared me and I wisely deferred to him on all things Bacon-related.

While X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is an X-Men movie that follows a team of mutants trying to save humanity (again for the first time!) the core of the film is really the relationship of pre-Professor X and Magneto, which was surprisingly complex.  The movie really could have been called CHARLES AND ERIC.  A large part was the tighter writing in this installment, and a lot of props also go to the actors -James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender- who brought a lot of pathos to the roles (Charles and Eric respectively).  I don't recall seeing McAvoy in anything before, but he was a pretty solid choice to portray a younger version of the character made famous by Patrick Stewart (do I smell a Star Trek: The Next Generation reboot in the works?).  I guess the balance you have to maintain in the case of a prequel like this is not having the younger version of the character totally the same as his older self, while not being completely different either.  The young Charles Xavier in this movie is just finishing up his doctoral thesis (on mutation, what else?) and although seems a lot more mature for his age (30-ish?) he's also a bit of a womanizer, which is pretty cool.  Mutants need to get laid too, right?  Fassbender did a kick-ass job as young Magneto as well and his character focus in this movie was rage.  It was kind of cool to see the character arc starting to form from Fassbender's pure rage and revenge to Ian McKellan's cold, calculating mission to further the rights of mutants the world over.  I didn't realize until later that I was already a fan of Fassbender's having witnessed his exploits in both 300 and INGLORIOUS BASTERDS.

One of the coolest things that FIRST CLASS added to the mythology for me was regarding Professor X's powers.  I mean, we already knew he had telepathy, and mind control, and he can make people see what he wants them to see, and in general cloud the minds of men, and maybe even kill someone if he thinks about them too hard. What we never really saw were the personal consequences of using his powers.  In FIRST CLASS there are a couple of really cool scenes were Charles delves into Eric's mind and while he's in there the connection is -at least in part- mutual. When Charles goes through all the shit Eric had to go through what with the Nazi's and the brutal murder of his mother and whatnot, there's actually an emotional connection and he literally feels Eric's pain.  Which kind of makes sense.  I mean, you're melding with somebody else's mind, there must be a line where the distinction between the two minds becomes blurred and... sounds really fucking nerdy, like I'm actually debating the logistics of telepathy like it's actually a real thing.  Oh god, what have I become.

Other major plot points involve a young Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) in a sort of love triangle with Charles and Eric, Beast (Nicholas Hoult) becoming the big blue Beast we all know and love, Emma Frost (January Jones) psychically humping some Russian general and Michael Ironside trying to stop the Cold War from going hot.  We also get to see this mutant called Azazel who -like Nightcrawler- has the ability to teleport, which on the surface doesn't seem that great, but in the context of the X-Men films seems to be one of the coolest powers you could ever want to have.  One of the best action scenes of X-MEN 2 was the first scene where Nightcrawler fucks shit up in the Whitehouse and shows how uber-powerful he really is.  In FIRST CLASS Azazel has not one but two totally awesome action scenes one of which again shows ho a teleporter is just like a one man army.  Fans of either comic books or comic book movies also get rewarded with a lot of cool shit like a prototype 60's-style Cerebro, a bevy of mutants like Havoc and Banshee, and pretty kick-ass X-Men uniforms with a colour-scheme that channels the classic look in the comics.  You get your standard training montage where Charles Xavier (with a little help from Hank McCoy) helps everyone reach his or her full potential.  There's also a cameo by a certain clawed mutant (OK, it's Wolverine) making sure that there will be no X-Men movie ever made that doesn't feature Hugh Jackman.  At the end of the movie you also get to see Fassbender in full Magneto getup which is pretty awesome.

Before I wrap this shit up, I have to make mention of one one of the best and worst parts of the movie.  If you've ever watched Mad Men then you will immediately recognize January Jones in the role of Emma Frost.  Now, in that show I always found Jones kind of... I think "stiff" is the right word.  Unable to emote.  Is there a single word for that?  I think for Mad Men this style works because her character is supposed to be emotionally and sexually repressed and suppressed.  Then I saw Jones in UNKNOWN, and she seemed to be acting (and I use the term "acting" very loosely in her case) exactly the same as she did in Mad Men.  Then I saw her "performance" in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and I finally realized what the problem was: January Jones can't act.  She simply recites her lines mechanically with the exact same inflection every single time, like some kind of script-regurgitating robot with a really nice rack.  Unfortunately for her having nice tits will not help her acting, and unfortunately for audiences having nice tits will undoubtedly help her acting (regurgitating) career so I'm sure we will be forced to endure more of her shit for years to come.  I think Ryebone's take was that she seemed like she was just reading cue cards or something that somebody was holding for her behind the camera, which is really what it seemed like she was doing.

The other (slightly) annoying thing here was trying to populate the movie X-Universe with a back-catalogue of characters.  I mean, I'm not a hardcore comic book reader and most of knowledge about the X-Men comes from that awesome 90's cartoon, so I know the main characters like Cyclops, Beast, Wolverine, Jean Grey, Storm, Rogue, and Gambit.  It just seems like in FIRST CLASS they're scraping the bottom of the barrel.  I mean I kind of knew about Havoc and Banshee, but then there's characters like Darwin, and the weird alternate-Angel.  Then there's the one bad guy -I don't even know what the fuck his name was- but he was basically Tornado Man, and he was pretty much a tool.  Even the main villain Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon.  I wonder if Wendy's has to pay him royalties for using the name Baconator for one of its sandwiches...)  I had to look up.  The problem is they really blew their load in the first two films, went completely fucking insane in the third film, and then they set this movie forty years in the past before most of the other characters from the first movies were even born really painting themselves into a corner.

But anyway.  Although I had to endure an entire feature-length commentary from a couple of douche bags in the third row I was still able to enjoy X-MEN: FIRST CLASS.  And if you liked the other X-Men movies (except X3) then you'll enjoy this one too.  I give X-MEN: FIRST CLASS a 7.5/10 = One Head Slowly Being Lobotomized By A Magnetically Controlled Quarter.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

Don't Even Think About It

This article is not for you.

Stop reading right now.

I mean it.  This article is meant for a relatively specific subset of society, and odds are you aren't part of it and consequently won't give a shit about anything you're about to read should you have decided not to heed my warnings. 

If you're still reading, then let me reiterate: go away.  You will not receive any intellectual or emotional enjoyment out of the content this article.  Just in case you're a little thick or high the following is a checklist of prerequisites for understanding/enjoying this article.  To proceed you must meet at least all of the following:

1) You have spent more than five consecutive hours shooting virtual, 8-bit ducks with a light gun.
2) Still regret not buying that Virtual Boy.
3) Have actually been involved in a real argument about which was better: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
4) To this day still spell cart with a "k" and a "m-a-r-i-o."
5) Still can't understand why anybody ever derived any pleasure from any Sonic the Hedgehog game. (Seriously, what pieces of shit.)
6) Spent more time blowing into a cartridge to get it to start working than actually playing a game.
7) Still hold to the firm belief that "blowing" is valid form of repair for electronic devices.
8) You know what a Tanooki Suit is without having to look it up on Wikipedia.
9) Have ever fantasized about having sex with Samus Aran, Princess Daisy, Princess Peach, or Zelda.
10) Know the difference between Princess Peach and Princess Daisy.
11) Have -at any time- considered getting -or actually gotten- the Nintendo logo or any Nintendo character tattooed on any part of your body.
12) Have attempted an ill-advised "space jump" off the roof of your house.
13) Have ever spent a night drinking and playing Super Mario World and remember it as being one of the "best nights of your life."
14) You have spent time debating -in all seriousness- whether Toad or King Koopa is a better driver.
15) You have owned more than three different versions of the Gameboy.
16) You have actually declined sex in favour of controlling a tiny, moustached, stereotypical Italian plumber and making him jump and smash bricks with his head.
17) You have contemplated whether or not "moustached Italian plumber" is actually a stereotype.
18) You love pussy.  (Just making sure you're still paying attention.  Cock is fine too.)
19) Unlike many naysayers you thought that "cube" was the perfect shape for a video game system.
20) Your lucky number is 64.
21) Spicing things up in the bedroom means convincing your significant other to wear a pointy green hat, a futuristic space helmet or a red hat and moustache.
22) You and your friends still keep a running count of how many games of Goldeneye you have won, those totals are all counted in (at least) the hundreds, and the document upon which this tally is kept is revered as a sacred document.
23) To this very day you still hold out some vague sense of hope that the third arm on the Nintendo 64 controller with the D-pad wasn't just for show.
24) Still feel cheated after you found out that Super Mario Bros. 2 was all just Mario's fucking fevered, hash-inspired dream.
25) Your favourite ensemble cast appeared in Super Smash Bros.
26) When playing with a friend you have purposely gotten Mario killed just so you could be the one to play the "boot level" in the fifth world of Super Mario Bros. 3.
27) Have been defeated by a character called "Bubbleman."  (You've got to be shitting me...)
28) Your idea of a romantic evening is a bottle of Pepsi, a frozen pizza, and watching some anime tentacle porn involving Princess Peach while your wife/girlfriend/hooker gives you a handjob and you make her/pay her to whisper "It'sa, me! Mario!" over and over again in your ear.
29) You have written at least one fan script for The Legend of Zelda movie.
30) For you the Power Glove is not only a superior way of playing games, it's also a great fashion statement.
31) You've jerked off at least once while wearing the Power Glove.
32) You have -at any point in your life- referred to your penis as "Megaman."  (Or, if you're a chick, have been forced to refer to your boyfriend's/husband's genitals in such a way.)
33) Know for a fact that when you need to kill zombies (or infected Spaniards) Leon S. Kennedy is the only man for the job.  (Yeah, fuck you Chris Redfield...)

That's right, I'm talking bout video games: more specifically Nintendo.  For those of you left reading this article then prepare to have your head explode with awesomeness.  Although, at this point, it probably already has.  Apparently Nintendo was having so much fun just printing money with the Wii, that they figured: hey, why the fuck not?  Let's make even more cash by coming out with a new system boldly called the Wii U.  I have no idea how the fuck Nintendo chooses its names anymore.  I miss the good old days I could understand the process like just putting the superlative "Super" in front of your name.  It doesn't matter though.  No matter what Nintendo does or says I will continue to buy their reasonably priced products, and typically before buying similar products from their competitors.  This is because (at least when it comes to video games) I am a brand name whore.

Arrested Development. (Seriously awesome show, though.  Totally check it out.)  Throwing money at the problem isn't going to help those people.  What's needed is socially responsible governments to step in, work together to set up a stable political and social infrastructure, bringing in trained volunteers (or paid specialists at a discount rate) to establish an education system that teaches, among other things, reading, writing, and effective birth control techniques, basic medical care, and sustainable farming techniques so they can take over their own means of production and stand on their own to feet in a global marketplace.  So in other words, they're completely fucked.

Money can't solve the problem of global food shortages, but it can solve the problem of a Nintendo system without HD resolution.  The Wii U is not due out until next year, but I'm already saving up my allowance.  But why, you may ask, is Nintendo apparently jumping the gun and developing a new console well ahead of when most experts (on random websites on the Internet) seem to feel that the life of the Formerly-Next-Gen-But-Now-Current-Gen systems like the Wii and the PS3 and the Xbox 360 would probably extend past the typical four or five year life cycle due to mostly to technological concerns and the  shifting worldwide economy (ie. it currently sucks balls).  Seeing as we're already in the fifth year for the PS3 and the Wii and the sixth year for ye olde Xbox 360, they would have been right had Nintendo not just announced their impending ass-raping of both Sony and Microsoft (gaming division).

Sony and Microsoft were banking on technological superiority, not just in processing power but also in ideology.  We're now at a point where extending the life of a video game console is a viable option because companies can offer software updates that add new features and new functionality without having to actually physically design and mass produce an entirely new system.  It's like what Sega tried to do with stuff like the Sega CD, except, you know, good.  The most recent example is Sony's update for the PS3 to allow it to play 3D BluRay and video games.  Video game systems are at the point now where -graphically speaking- stuff looks fucking great and the gaming community has dug themselves into a fairly comfortable rut.  Except the folks at Nintendo.

Early on -even before it's release- the Wii was blasted by critics for its inferior processing power compared to her heavyweight opponents the PS3 and Xbox 360.  It was a weird kind of circular mentality we'd gotten into, and one for which Nintendo was at least partially responsible.  Conventional wisdom churned out by The Great Marketing Machine was that the great new aspect of any new gaming console was its increase in processing power.  Even as a kid I remember earnestly discussing the merits of 16 bit as opposed to 8 bit gaming systems, even though at the time I only had a vague understanding of what that actually meant.  What it boiled down (for a kid anyway) was better graphics.  And really that was the big selling feature featured in marketing campaigns for video game consoles for years.  The major aspect of the Nintendo 64 that was on the minds of consumers was new 3D graphics.

Then came one of the first paradigm shifts in the usage of the video game console.  The PS2 and the Xbox not only boasted 3D graphics, but also the ability to play DVD's and CD's.  Holy shit.  All of the sudden video game systems were actually realizing Nintendo's original dream of becoming "entertainment systems."  One would have thought that this trend would come to dominate the video game industry, but it hasn't really.  And I suppose Nintendo is the exception that disproves the trend.  About the time the Then-Next-Gen systems the PS3 the 360 and the Wii were coming onto the market was also around the times the next round of the great Format Wars in which new digital video formats were competing for our eye-space.  The PS3 -produced by Sony- obviously had BluRay playback because Sony was behind the BluRay, and needed to pimp that shit because they couldn't afford another disastrous and humiliating loss like when their Beta cassette format lost out in the consumer market to VHS, despite its superior quality.  Yeah marketing.  Microsoft also embraced the Format Wars with its new Xbox 360... sort of.  What we got was the standard DVD compatibility and an HDDVD drive that you could buy separately at a fairly steep price (around $199 - the cost of a hooker and a Triforce tattoo in Vegas).  And of course the Wii had the ability to play back... nothing.

Looking at sheer processing power it would be pretty easy to see who the big swinging dick of the latest generation of consoles was.  On paper the PS3 seemed to have it all.  Or did it?  See that's the thing, having the biggest cock in the room is useless if you don't know how to advertise it.  Or how to package it at an affordable price.  This was the first area where it became apparent that despite it's inferior technical specs the Wii was a serious contender. Clocking in at about $250 at it's release the Wii was easily the most economically viable of the systems.  The Xbox 360 would set you back anywhere between $300 and $400 dollars (depending one whether or not you, oh I don't know, wanted to save your fucking games or anything).  And the PS3 topped them all with an opening bid of about $600.  Before tax.  Ouch.  For that same price you could get a tranny stripper to tie your dick in knots all night long and leave a gaping, bloody wound where your asshole used to be, if that's what you're into.  (Not that I'm trying to draw any comparisons or anything...)

Even early on in the War before the consoles were even released, it as obvious that this time was different.  Nintendo specifically was taking a whole new angle to how they were marketing their system.  Instead of merely "playing with power" Nintendo took a drastically different turn in their whole gaming ideology.  Instead of merely boosting graphics they were trying to influence the way we actually played games.  Their latest controller was completely unique from anything else on the market.  Not only did it come in two parts, it was motion sensitive.  We know this strange device now as the Wii Remote and Nunchuck.  This was technology that had never been successfully (at least to my knowledge) mass-produced for consumers before.  What it represented was innovation in the way we actually interacted with the virtual world on the screen instead of just innovation with the virtual world.  Whether you thought it was the stupidest thing since Bill Clinton's "it depends on what your definition of 'is' is" defence or whether you immediately blew your load upon hearing of this awesomeness, you had to give props to Nintendo for being innovative and thinking outside the box, or as Doc Brown would say, "come here teenage boy thinking three dimensionally."  Personally I thought it was pretty fucking cool, and I'm down with any controller that can legally be classified as a ninja weapon.  I always believed that the Wiimote actually made more sense for shooting games than traditional controllers.  It seemed more intuitive to me to actually physically point and shoot with my hand in the real world.  For some this is apparently not the case.  One of my best experiences so far was with the Wii port of Resident Evil 4.  When using the Wiimote my shooting accuracy went up by about ten to fifteen percent on average throughout the game.

So now we begin to see how Nintendo's last system came to dominate the consumer market.  It wasn't about gaming, it was about the idea of gaming.  It was conceptual.  You don't buy a video game console: you buy a concept.  An ideology.  What the Wii represented was A) A gaming system aimed at a more diverse economic audience with it's price point set much lower than it's competitors, B) Innovation in the way we physically experienced gaming, C) The (sometimes subtle) emphasis on quality over quantity, and D) The distinction between different types of gamers.

Before the last generation of consoles came out, I had never really thought about the type of gamer I was.  I was just a dude who liked video games.  I had always classified people as video game people and non-video game people.  Then all of the sudden all of these ads on TV and the Internet categorized people as either a "casual gamer" or a "hardcore" gamer.  I'm still not sure where or whether I fit in, or whether there's a whole spectrum.  I wouldn't really classify myself as "hardcore" because I typically play games on their "Normal" difficulty instead of their "Hard" difficulty, I don't always go back and play the same game five times in a row just to get all of the achievements (thank you Xbox ), I don't buy user guides so that I can complete every single mundane aspect of a game just for "bragging rights," and I don't play either WoW or Call of Duty, which seems to be a prerequisite for "hardcore" gamers the world over.  Nor would I classify myself as casual because I own all of the current systems (And also a backlog of about five or six previous systems.  Go Super Nintendo!), I have a pretty diverse interest in games (Except racing games and sports games, which I loathe, and CoD, which I can't get into), I have gone on gaming sessions lasting upwards of twenty-four hours (On SSX Tricky of all things.  You should have seen our fucking trick scores, though.), and have sacrificed personal relationships, personal well-being due to bladder related injuries, lack of nutrition and (severe) lack of sleep, and personal hygiene in order to "play more."  Admittedly with a family it's getting a lot harder to find the time to play games, but for all you hardcore gamers out there: don't worry, my love of video games is slowly chipping away at my relationship with my wife and kids too. 

But all of the sudden I had to choose a side.  The Wii was the first of this generation of consoles that I picked up, being a Nintendo whore and all, and for a long time that alone was enough to qualify me as a casual gamer.  While to me this seemed like a social stigma of the highest calibre, Nintendo actually embraced this ideology.  What I saw as an insult from overweight, acne-prone, anti-social freaks whose approval I somehow simultaneously craved and disdained, Nintendo saw as a great marketing tool.  When the gaming community said "casual" I heard "inferior" but the execs at Nintendo heard "accessible."  All of the sudden you had game play so intuitive (the hardcore gamer might call it "simple" or "childish", but I would retort by asking him to describe what a vagina feels like (you know, because he can't because he's too much of a loser trying to get a glimpse of partial nudity in games like God of War (you know the scene) than to actually get laid in real life)) that you could go from shooting Spanish zombies to bowling with granny in five seconds flat.

All of the sudden the gaming market opened up to whole new demographics.  The inmates residents in old folks home could pass their last remaining years away waiting for death with a few games of virtual bowling, golf, or tennis.  Fitness nuts or people who wanted to get into shape but were too embarrassed to go to a gym with other human beings could start using video games as motivation to exercise with cool shit like the Wii Fit.  Men, women, young, old: it was a gaming orgy and all were invited to partake in the carnal pleasure.  Nintendo -and to some extent Sony and Microsoft- even took it a step further. The Wii was billed as a great companion system to the PS3 and the Xbox 360.  Now it was like they weren't even in competition any more, even though they really were.  You buy the PS3 for the hardcore gamer in the family so little Timmy can play CoD and teabag his defeated opponents to the point where they quit the game entirely and so the family could watch BluRays, and you buy the Wii so Jimmy can save Hyrule (again!) and Mom and Dad can try to get rid of those love handles, and then vote on stupid questions and check the weather.  It was a totally bizarre sort of eye in the marketing hurricane.

Fast forward five years and where does that leave Nintendo?  In a potentially precarious position.  With the Wii consistently outselling the other two systems for so long they've now reached a point of potential market saturation, or what I like to call the Guitar Hero Effect.  They've sold so many Wii's for so long that anybody who wants one probably has one.  This is great for Nintendo on one hand because now they can focus on selling games which is really how the industry makes money after losing so much on the systems.  On the other hand -from Nintendo's standpoint- there are still other markets to be captured.  And I mean after being on top for so long, it's hard not to want to chase that high again.  After so many years of relative non-competition with the "hardcore" consoles, Nintendo is ramping up to make their foray back into the hardcore demographic with the Wii U.  And finally here it is in all of its glory:

Stick it in me, you know you want to...
 As many people have already no doubt observed it looks kind of like if a Wii and an Xbox (not the new slim, but the old curvaceous one) got together, went out for dinner and movie, broke out a bottle of wine, listened to some Radiohead, and then had wild, dirty, unprotected sex of which the Wii U was the unabortable lovechild.  Although I think the technical specs are still slightly lower than the PS3 and Xbox 360, it will be able to pump out 1080p graphics via an HDMI cable and have the processing power to compete graphically with the other two systems.  It will also (listen to this you bastards at Sony) be backwards compatible with the Wii, so if some hardcore gamer wanted to take a break from playing the latest Bioshock and check out everybody's favourite moustached plumber, he would now have the option to do so all on one system.

What the Wii U won't do, however, (at the point in time in which this article was written) is play back BluRay's, DVD's, or CD's, I'm sure much to many people's chagrin.  Again -although at first glance kind of disappointing- this is genius on the part of Nintendo who will be able to keep production costs down and offer a competitive price point with a new system competing with established consoles.  Their take is if you want to watch BluRays and such you'll probably already have at least one such player in your house already.  The diabolical genius of this is that it's basically letting Sony and Microsoft do all the expensive, heavy lifting for them, and they can zoom in and still release a competitive dedicated gaming system.  Plus, with the advent of services like Netflix, BluRay and DVD playback becomes less of an important selling feature for the casual movie watcher anyway.

But the real crazy shit is the Wii U controller.  Once again Nintendo is leading the way in innovating how we interact with our games and bringing something new to the table.  As previously rumoured the controller will indeed have a six inch cock touch screen as you can see below.

Not only will it have a touch screen but also a built-in accelerometer and gyroscope, a camera and microphone, and apparently even the make-it-or-break-it rumble feature which we all know is the epitome of gaming technology.  First thought?  Yes, apparently they turned the Nintendo DS into a controller.  Which is fucking awesome.  Second thought?  It does not look nearly as ergonomically designed as the PS3 or Xbox 360 controller.  What it actually feels like is a whole other story, but judging from how long kids are able to play a DS, I'm not really too concerned.

Either way, I'm already chomping at the bit to get my dick hands all over one of these things, but alas due to the linear nature of time I will have to wait until sometime in the Spring/Summer of 2012 before I can not buy one due to limited quantities being sold out at six in the morning, the time when most of us are getting ready to go to our respective jobs.  But I will buy it, guaranteed.  And even if Sony or Microsoft were coming out with a new system next year (which is not fucking likely at this point) and they were even close to the same price, I would still buy the Wii U first.  It has almost nothing to do with functionality and almost everything to do with illogical emotional attachment.  When I buy a new system the first thing I think about isn't technical specs.  I think about coming downstairs on Christmas day and playing Super Mario Bros. for the first time.  I think about about opening up the box for my new Gamecube or Wii and getting hit with that new-console smell.  The excitement of holding the new controller in my hand.  I think about the hours sitting in a dark basement on an otherwise perfect summer day and playing hours of Super Mario Kart or Goldeneye and having to deal with the dreaded video game headache for the rest of the day.  I dig Sony and Microsoft, and I love their shit too, but unfortunately for them they have to deal with a whole generation who, like me, is nostalgically loyal to Nintendo. 

Long live Mario.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Killer Fish, Big Breasts and Jerry O'Connell

Gratuitous.  That is the only word I can think of that perfectly to describe PIRANHA 3D.  It is a word which also encapsulates the entire concept of the movie.  There was absolutely nothing that was not unnecessary in this film.  PIRANHA 3D represents all that is wrong with the world today.  It stands as an affront to all that is decent, and pure, and right, and noble. 

Which is a good thing because that's really all this movie had going for it.

For me there was basically only one reason to watch PIRANHA 3D.  It was something I'd heard from several reviews of the film, a fact that was meant to be derisive and cautionary, but was music to my ears.  Three of the best words that can be used to describe the content of a movie: full frontal nudity.  Perhaps this seems childish and impractical because if I wanted to look at naked chicks I could easily go the Internet or use that secret peephole at the local YMCA women's change room.  But for some reason nudity in a mainstream, studio film somehow made it "OK" in the eyes of the conservative crackpots out there.  Or, at least, slightly more tolerable.  It was also a way to sneak in smut under the ever-manned defences of your significant other.  On any other occasion your wife/girlfriend/concubine/mail order bride -unless she was some liberal, nympho, sex-craved lunatic- would probably scoff at the idea of watching anything with naked people -especially other chicks.  But, when you watch a socially valid art form -in this case the Hollywood studio film- it somehow becomes acceptable to watch people frolic around naked, and even in explicit sex scenes.  It's like a porn cloaking device, like the Romulans somehow snuck some naked chicks aboard the Enterprise before Picard knew what was going on.  Now there's a lost episode I'd like to see.

Somehow, when nudity is put into the context of "pornography" it suddenly becomes taboo as if pornography was not a valid art form.  Most women are socially programmed to view other (attractive) women as competition, even if they're some random person on the television screen that can't actually interact with their husband/boyfriend/gimp-in-a-box and poses no real sexual competition whatsoever.  I suppose that there is an element of jealousy ingrained in the male psyche as well, however if I found my wife's collection of porno mags and her vibrator I wouldn't be upset by it.  Surprised, maybe, knowing my wife (although she did go to a live sex show in Amsterdam without me while we were still dating, so maybe not so surprised), but not angry or jealous.  Perhaps it's part of the sociological construction that makes women who have a lot of sex "sluts" and men who do the same thing "the man."  For reasons I can't comprehend women tend to be socialized to be as sexually conservative as possible while paradoxically being flooded with images of scantily-clad women with the "ideal" body type and setting an improbable standard that makes them question their own self esteem and teaches them to exude sexuality.  In essence women are supposed to be sexy, but not have sex.  Men, on the other hand, are programmed to believe that their relative "manliness" is directly linked to their sexual dominance, and then paradoxically forced into the social construction of monogamy.  This construction puts men in an equally awkward bind as they are forced to reconcile the fact that they are supposed to be sexual conquerors and yet be bound to one person. All in all, it seems pretty fucked up and makes me question whether I really want to retain any ties to the human race at all.

None of these thoughts ran through my mind as I walked up the stairs to Ryebone's apartment that Friday night.  I was just going over to hang out for a couple of hours.  I was greeted at the door by a partially-clothed Ryebone who greeted me in his usual style- a manly buffet on the shoulder followed by a loud fart and a maniacal laugh.  After he put on his pants, we settled into a familiar routine playing Rockband 3 on unreliable plastic instruments.  Ryebone has had notoriously bad luck when it comes to the musical peripherals that have become a staple in the home of any modern-day,self-respecting gamer.  The guitar I was forced to play with had a squeaky strum bar, and the yellow button had a habit of suddenly not registering in the game despite the fact that I was obviously still holding it down.

After an hour or so of rhythm gaming the decision was made to go to Dairy Queen.  This was to allow Ryebone to satiate a recently developed craving for DQ's Blizzards, and also to indulge one of his favourite hobbies: leering at and making sexually suggestive comments to young women working at fast food restaurants.  ("That'll be $5.67, sir."  "Perfect.  If you just reach into my pocket you'll find a roll of quarters." *wink*)  I got an Orange Julius in the most likely unfounded belief that it was somehow healthier and we went back to his place to complete the Friday Ritual.  Rybone booted up his vast network of computers and external drives where he stored his vast array of digital entertainment for which he had forsaken physical media.  We began scrolling through his collection of recently downloaded movies and we came across PIRANHA 3D.  It was getting fairly late by this point, so the trim running time of 88 minutes was a big selling feature.  Plus I had in mind those three hallowed words: full frontal nudity.  I was in the mood for something light, something I wouldn't have to concentrate too hard on (tee, hee, hee).  And ultimately the only reason I wanted to watch it was because I was a heterosexual man and I loved to look at breasts.  Plain and simple.

It was with this -the purest of intentions- that we set out to watch PIRANHA 3D (regrettably only in 2D because Ryebone -despite spending exorbitant amounts of money on a 3D TV- for some inexplicable reason was too cheap to lay down a couple hundred extra clams for the glasses needed to take advantage of the 3D gimmick technology).  From the very first scene it was evident that this was not a movie to be taken seriously.  Of course it was also evident that this was a movie that clearly didn't give a shit what anybody thought.  It had a clear and simple mandate: to show as much graphically portrayed tits and ass and gore as it was possible to get with an R rating.

The premise of PIRANHA 3D is as patently absurd as it is genius in its simplicity.  Seismic activity opens up an underwater cavern that holds a school of prehistoric piranha that are now released into a lake that just happens to be a spring break hot spot.  That's pretty much it.  From there on out you get a lot of what you paid for: bikini-clad women shaking their asses, wet t-shirt contests, Jerry O'Connell shooting a low-budget porn, an underwater scene with big-breasted naked porn stars (the way all underwater scenes should be) and finally people killing in unimaginably horrible ways.

I was surprised by the number of recognizable faces in this flick.  It starts off with an inexplicable cameo by Richard Dreyfus who dies within about two minutes of the beginning of the movie.  I'm not sure if the filmmakers wanted a callback to JAWS to add some sort of intertextual reference and add some legitimacy to their movie.  More likely they wanted some big name celebrities to help sell some tickets.  Ving Rhames shows up to kick some ass as a cop and is partnered with Elisabeth Shue who you'll probably recognize as Jennifer 2.0 from BACK TO THE FUTURE II and III.  Another BACK TO THE FUTURE staple, Christopher Lloyd, also showed up for the fun.  Also popping in are Eli Roth, Dina Meyer, Ricardo Chavira (Desperate Housewives.  Yeah, you probably recognized him from those agonizing hours forced by your wife or girlfriend to watch that crap.), Adam Scott and of course Jerry O'Connell as the asshole porn film producer/director.  I suppose that Kelly Brook and Riley Steele might also have helped to draw in a certain type of crowd because I can only surmise from their filmographies on IMDB that they are porn stars of some variety.

There's not much more you need to know.  Like I said, everything in PIRANHA 3D is completely gratuitous and superficial and bears no greater significance than what is depicted on the screen.  There is no deeper meaning here.  There are half-naked and totally-naked chicks with giant tits, body shots, motorboating (both the kind with boats and the kind with breasts), a lot of alcohol, people being eaten alive by hungry, prehistoric aquatic predators, Ving Rhames killing hundreds of fish with an outboard motor, Richard Dreyfus's decayed, half-eaten corpse, a particularly terrible scene where a girl with her hair stuck in the propeller of a boat has her entire face ripped off while she is still alive, and to top it all off Jerry O'Connell's digitally recreated penis regurgitated on screen for what seemed like a really long time.  If any or all of that seems he least bit appealing to you, then PIRANHA 3D is definitely the movie for you. 

I'm still not sure whether I admire PIRANHA 3D for being an unpretentious movie with no goal other than for the actors or the audience to simply have a good time or totally hate it for being just another signpost that our culture is truly dying a terrible death that exhaults style over substance, or in this case tits and gory death over substance.  I won't say this movie is a must see, however if you want to sneak some nudity in under your significant other's nose in the guise of socially acceptable media, then this has to rank up there right behind WILD THINGS and SPECIES.  I give PIRANHA 3D a 4/10= One Excited Head MoterBoating a Pair of Perfect Breasts Then Taking Them Out To Tea Afterwards